It's all change for me this month as I'm changing jobs and moving away from the security of being employed by someone else to the world of self employment.. doing so won't be easy and will be full of new challenges, and no doubt even more obstacles but I'm determined to make it work - Afterall you don't know until you try, and you only get out what you put in!
Here's my new venture's website http://www.mattredmanag.co.uk
I'll write more of an update soon when I can grab a few minutes!
While social media forms such as Twitter may not be everyone in the farming industries idea of ‘the new way to communicate’; there certainly are becoming more and more people who are finding out its value, both as a social means of communication and also as a tool for discussing far reaching, and often complex issues surrounding the industry.
Armed with only 140 characters; discussing and debating a complex agricultural issue such as agricultural succession may seem an impossibly daunting task. However this seemingly restrictive means of communication between like-minded individuals and organisations has proven just how effective it can be in recent times.
A simple ‘tweet’ about the lack of younger people at a county NFU meeting sparked a discussion between three or four people. This has since snowballed into the #aggen hashtag with tens of people contributing their thoughts on the matter of how new entrants, and the younger generation can make in the big wide world of the agricultural industry – both as employees and employers.
The discussion has since opened up and shown the passion and drive of the younger generation of the industry – but it has also shown how they respect the older generation. It isn’t a case of ‘how can we make the older generation retire so we can take over’ but more ‘how can the younger generation show their passion and enthusiasm to carry on what is already being done by the older generation, so that we can work more closely together and build systems to help the passing over of the decision making and risk taking’. There is a huge ‘want’ from people to get into the industry and be able to run a business in their own right – but closely coupled with this is the understanding of the need to gain experience and trust before such things can be made reality.
As the discussion progresses and more people become involved – which they are - there is a need to move it away from twitter and social media and into a format that can involve the older and younger generations side by side to allow each to see what the other is saying or asking. It’s important to remember that without the older generation, UK agricultural industry wouldn’t be what it is today – but also without the younger generation, the UK agricultural industry cannot be what it is today tomorrow.
Combining the OSR with our JD 2264
Our combine and the local John Deere Dealers Demo T670
Our new bale chaser unloading - it carries 18 quadrant bales at a time
Both JD 6420s' loaded with OSR
Working wheat stubble with JD7930 pulling Simba DTX and GPS guidance
JD 7930 and DTX at night
Dad's NH T7050 with Nitrojet liquid nitrogen applicator pulling Simba DTX drilling OSR
Drilling OSR with NH T7050 using GPS Guidance
JD 6830 pulling Simba Cultipress working down DTX'd wheat stubble
JD 7920 and Spauldings Flatlift subsoiling bean stubble
We've started the cycle for next years harvest already, with OSR being drilled this week. We're hoping to improve the establishment of the crop this year by applying some liquid nitrogen while drilling, this will mean the nitrogen is in the soil, close to the seedling straight away. Normally we'd apply granular Nitrogen a week or so after drilling when we had time.
This week has also seen us finish combining wheat, so apart from some spring beans to do next week we can focus on getting the cultivating done and the establishment of next years crops!
I've also recently got the job as one of Farmers Weekly's arable farmer focus writers - my first article will be in this weeks magazine and is online here - http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/08/16/128417/Matt-Redman-finalises-OSR-establishment-plans.htm
I also realise I've no been very good at posting pictures on here this harvest, so I'll try and get some up in the next few days!
Harvest is finally underway. We managed about 2 days early in the week before being rain off, although it didn't do any harm as we'd started on wheat which wasn't quite ready really - the grain was dry enough births straw was still abit green.
Once things had dried up a little we made a start on the OSR - which as featured quite heavily in previous posts to this blog! Considering the problems over the winter and into the spring it hasn't turned it too bad, not brilliant yields but better than expected in most places. We're currently cutting the final 30ha, so hopefully by Monday we'll be back onto wheat and making dent in the area left to harvest, as well as filling to barn! Unfortunetly the wheat yields are going to be lower this year due to the dry spring, but as yet we don't know how much by, fingers crossed not much.
It's been a while since my last post, no excuses, I just don't know where the times gone! So here's a first, I'm attempting this post from my phone - so we'll see how it goes..
Over the last month not alot has happened, jobs about the farm have mainly been harvest preparation. The one difference being I started my BASIS training so now have different pest, weed and disease picture plastered about in a effort to help me remember and identify them.
Harvest still hasn't officially started for us, although we are getting busy baling and carting barley (and wheat!) straw from neighbours.. A process filled with learning curves this year as we are operating a bale chaser for the first time - a machine that looks alot easier to operate than it actually is! Hopefully the combine will be rolling by next week, or we might find we have wheat ready before the OSR.
Last Sunday was unlike any other Sunday this year.. and for a change I don't mean because of the weather - although from a farming point of view the wet and miserable weather was a welcome change. The thing that made last Sunday, 12th June, different was that it was Open Farm Sunday and because of this hundreds of farms across the country opened their gates to the public and invited them to see and learn about modern farming.
I've been interested in taking part for a couple of years, but lack of time and also livestock (they seem to be a good 'attraction') I haven't been able to. So this year I popped along to Offley Hoo (take a look at their website here) to see how it was done, here are a few pictures from the day.
Well done to Jon and all of his helpers for putting on such a good day, the weather wasn't great but there was still a steady flow of cars in and out of the car park and plenty of activities going on around the farm to keep the kids entertained and show/explain different aspects of food production and the environment.
I've no idea why, but today I decided to do a spot of gardening... Not something I normally do, and a bit late in the year for the required purpose. That purpose was to get a small bit of garden ready to plant some pumpkins - something we've done since I was about 5 I think, and by some I mean about 40 plants. The result used to be 100-200 odd pumpkins that we would sell at the farm gate to earn some pocket money, as for the reason we still do it; I have no idea.
However, back to the 'gardening' I decided to do. It should probably be described more as an excuse to play about with a couple of my vintage tractors - a diesel 1976 Massey Ferguson 135 and a petrol/TVO 1948 Ferguson T-20.. but it served a useful purpose so i'll claim it was gardening.
It actually turned out better than expected. From the initial plan of just ploughing it, I ended up getting the fergie out of the shed its been sat in for the last 2 years to tine and roll it - all within an hour or so as the conditions were just right -it must be gardening or something, that never happens in farming!
Here's a few pictures..
Even created a tillage train! or more, 'tilth train' - either way, it was pretty effective.
It's strange to think that although I was having abit of fun and playing around on a small bit of ground - 50/60years ago the same machinery would be out working the same fields we use the big kit in nowadays.. How things have changed!
The big day has finally been, and it was a brilliant success - the weather was perfect and the final result was even better - with Silsoe YFC winning for the first time since 1963, and only the second time in the club's history which coupled to the fact this years rally was hosted by them made it extra special to win on 'home turf'!
Silsoe also won the road sign competition (our entry can be seen here..) and the float - both competitions we've put a lot of effort into; but been a fairly consistent 3rd place in for the last few years - I'm still hunting down a good picture of the float, as in all the excitement and running around I forgot to take one before it got covered in flour and water at the end of the day!
Final figures for the number of people through the gates haven't been worked out yet, but the biggest problem of the day looked like it would be lack of car parking space - at quarter to 3 the main car park, and the 'overflow' one (that had been created where the horseboxes and show jumping had taken place in the morning (bottom left of the picture)) were near enough full.
The Bedfordshire Young Farmers Rally and Show is this Saturday - the big day where everyone's hard work over the last few months, and especially last few weeks will be seen - i should also mean I get more time to update this from next week!
The last few weeks have needed more hours in the day, as well as getting the spraying and other jobs done at work a few of us from my Young Farmers Club have been busy building the float for the rally - The theme being Children's TV programs, but you'll have to wait to find out which one we've built.. It's quite satisfying seeing what was an idea in my head turning into near full size on a 30ft bale trailer!
Tomorrow is set to be a busy day with most of the trade stands turning up and other bits and bobs around the farm needing to be sorted out before Saturday - I've even been dragged into doing some spraying for Dad so he can stay on site to oversee things!
I'll try and upload a picture of the setting up tomorrow if I can commandeer a telehander and man crate to get a picture of the whole site.
The maize is starting to become visible in rows - both on the heavier land that was precision drilled and the lighter land that was drilled with our conventional drill. The next week or two will be a test for the starter fertiliser that was placed by the seed with the precision drill - the plants should emerge a darker green colour than where it wasn't used, and be quicker to get growing, but the dry weather may have an effect and limit its effectiveness.
Starter fertiliser or not, it all needs some rain now or there'll be a long term effect on the crop..
Photo above - Maize starting to show through on a headland of one of the heavier fields.
I've finally got round to writing a post again after a busy few weeks.To quickly bring you up to date; like everyone we really need some rain now! But last week saw the maize being drilled and the T1 spray program for the winter wheat’s completed. The maize has been drilled with two different drills this year as a trial - our Kverneland TS drill (with 3/4 of the pipes blocked off) that we use for the wheat/beans and a precision drill (also applying a starter fertiliser) so I'll keep an update of how the two methods are progressing on here.
Over the next few days the OSR will get its sclerotinia spray and the wheat’s will receive the final Nitrogen application - something we're not rushing about to get done with the dry weather and the lack of any forecast rain soon. Once that's done I've got the Young Farmers AGM in Blackpool (and then game cover drilling) to look forward too..
We've been fairly busy over the last few days either mucking out cattle sheds, cultivating ground ready for maize, putting fertiliser or spraying.. so here's a few photos of what's been going on..
Finally a couple of 'croppy' pictures - the first is the OSR - its finally at the flower bud stage so we're having to keep a careful eye on it for signs of pollen beetle; once the buds open the pollen beetle aren't a problem but until then they will bite into the bud to get to the pollen and damage it. There is a threshold of 15 per plant before any action is needed to control them - so far the most we've counted is 12, but luckily that number has since fallen to under 10 - still careful checking is still required over the next few days (if you look closely you can see a black spot, which is a pollen beetle between the buds)
The second is of the Fuego Spring Beans that were drilled on the 10/11th March - they're just starting to emerge and in a couple of days the tramlines will be visible and the fields should start to have a green colour too them. They received a pre emergence spray to control weeds, which has worked well as the fields all look to be nice and clean. The reason for a pre-emergence spray is because it allows a spray to be used that would also kill off the beans if they came into contact with it.
I've been doing some 'extra-curricular' farming this week, in the form of the final cultivation and sowing of a conservation grass and wildflower mix for English Heritage at Wrest Park to create a lowland meadow habitat.
The ground where this conservation mix now is had been left fallow for about 8 years until last June when it was sprayed off with glyphosate and then cultivated with our Simba DTX and left to weather and 'green up' again. Once a good establishment of small weeds had occurred it was then pressed with the Cultipress and left to 'green up' again - leaving it for a few weeks between cultivation passes allows weed seeds that are in the ground to germinate, the following cultivation then kills the small weeds without the need for additional uses of herbicide. The next planned step was to carry out a final application of glyphosate and then drill the conservation mix last autumn, however the weather got the better of us and the ground became too wet for drilling. The ground was finally dry enough last week, so after the final dose of glyphosate to kill of the weeds that had germinated over winter and early spring, it was springtined - with some chain harrows trailed behind - to lift the top few centimetres of soil and level the ground.
The seed mixture that had to be sown was made up of lots of different wild flowers and four different types of grass; because of this the seed needed to be broadcast onto the surface rather than placed into the soil like agricultural crops. To do this either required a specialist piece of machinery - which we didn't have available- or for us to use our conventional drill but not run it with the seeding points in the ground… The resulting picture of how we used it can be seen below. It also had to be sown at quite a low seed rate - 8kg/acre - and we had strict instructions not to run out! So it was sown at half rate in one direction, and then the final half rate in a different direction, this enabled the drill to be recalibrated after the first pass if too much, or too little seed had been used.There was a problem with running the drill in the air, this being that it would not carry out any levelling of the soil as it went across the field, meaning the small furrow created by the drills marker arm would not be covered and would an uneven seedbed. Tis was overcome by using the GPS steering kit fitted to the tractor - once setup it steers the tractor parallel to its previous pass with the driver only having to turn round at each end, giving them more time to watch the drill (or other implement) to make sure everything is running smoothly. Once the field had been sown with the seed mix it looked quite smart with the tractor wheel marks crossing it at angles...
Having drilled some of our first wheats in mid September (the earliest they've drilled wheat on the farm I was told) it is now possible to find signs of gout fly damage - not enough to be a problem but on careful inspection some tillers resemble a 'spring onion' - see the picture below (the only infected tiller is the fat one) - and by cutting the plant in half it is also possible to see the gout fly larvae - see the bottom picture. The gout fly lays its eggs on the leaf in September and once the eggs hatch the larvae burrows down into the plant - stunting growth and causing the swelling of the plant - the larvea then feeds on the plant for a few weeks, then pupates for a few more before an adult emerges.
It is possible to spot signs of gout fly in the autumn by identifying signs of egg laying on the leaves- the eggs are 3-4mm long and cylindrical in shape; the crop can be sprayed to control them, although it is important that this is timed to coincide with the eggs hatching - however in our case we either missed the timing of identifying them, or their presence was low enough so that we didn't notice it.
I joined our agronomist on a crop walk the other day to look over the winter wheat and OSR and get an idea of any weed or disease problems we are likely to encounter later in the year. The good thing was that apart from a few cleavers in one wheat field (that was ploughed last year) and some blackgrass (which should be taken care of if last weeks Atlantis application does it's work) the crops were all very clean - the bad thing being I couldn't be tested on my weed identification knowledge!
The most noticeable thing with the majority of our wheat crops at the moment is their size/growth stage - hardly any have reached GS30 yet with only the early drilled crops showing signs of final leaf 4 - the target for T0. With this in mind we will only be carrying out a T0 spray on the early drilled first wheats (Solstice) and a couple of 'forward' second wheats (Einstein) and even this is being delayed until the end of this week to allow the target leaf to better emerge. In terms of the actual application I've got 4 different tank mixes to cater for the different PGR (plant growth regulator) requirements and one including a mildew control.. the basic plan however will be 1.0l/ha Cherokee (Chlorothananil for second wheats) plus the PGR and some manganese.
Hopefully the weather will hold out until the weekend so that we can press on an get this application done - then if the weather later in April is catchy the T1 timing won't be quite so critical. We also could do with a few more days of dry weather to enable us to get 3 fields of second wheats that weren't rolled after drilling rolled - we have to wait until the end of the week to allow 10days after the Atlantis was sprayed as the rolling will slightly damage the plant and the Atlantis could harm the plant as well as the 'weeds' it was intended to kill.
Anyone that's been following this blog for a while may remember the problems I had with getting the OSR in (for those that haven't take a look here) and have had a few ramblings about the crop over the last few months, namely it's size, here and here.
Well we're now into spring, and with reports of pollen beetle already affecting some crops, and the possibilities of yellow flowers starting to appear in the next 7-10days (@no1farmerjake on twitter) I think our OSR should be looking a bit more forward than it is..
The actual establishment method, a Simba DTX and air seeder, produced a reasonable seedbed even in the sticky conditions and the initial establishment good across all of the fields so it will be used again this year - however we'll be making more of an effort to get it drilled earlier in better conditions as I think alot of the reason it's 'backwards' is to do with the drilling date - Dad got his drilled using a Simba X-press with ST bar and air seeder the other side of the hedge a week earlier and through the winter, and at the moment it looks alot better crop. It established itself but then failed to get growing to a decent size before the cold weather, resulting in it being more prone to pigeon damage and slower to start growing now.
Interestingly different soil types, or areas that used to be different fields have fared better and definite lines are visible in the crop where old hedgelines used to be - something that wasn't very evident when the field was drilled. It's variable fields like this that would make the GAI phone app useful as I could walk across the field and easily get the GAI for different parts.. If only I had an iPhone!
Hopefully by concentrating on clearing the straw from fields going into OSR next year we'll be able to get next year's crop drilled earlier, into better conditions, enabling it to get established and have a chance to grow a bit before the weather turns cold.. that's the plan anyway!
Overall to answer my 'title question' I think the actual establishment method has been a success.. the current crop is there and is now starting to grow, we've just got to keep the pigeons off of it! However more attention needs to be made to getting it drilled earlier (easy to say, not so easy in practice when it's wet and we've got straw to bale and cart everywhere!) to give it more of a chance of growing before the winter..
We've been able to make a start on applying Atlantis to the wheats at last (it's been in the shed waiting since October/November!) However, seeing as we had ideal conditions today, there had to be a problem! Firstly the transfer pump for pumping the front tank to the rear tank blew it's oil seals, and then I had alot of problems with the boom sections turning on and off correctly.
Eventually all was sorted and we got underway again, that was until I came across a 8 swans that refused to move - involving alot of chasing and arm waving - without much success to begin with (the one in the picture being particularly stubborn and refusing to move) - eventually though they did move to the edge of the field.. only to re-appear in a different field later in the day.
I finished drilling the spring beans (see the post from 11th March for more about the beans) on Saturday, and by lunchtime today they were all rolled.. not bad going when Thursday morning we didn't think we'd be able to even springtine the fields.. and we didn't do anything yesterday!
Here's a few of pictures...
At last it has dried up enough for us to get on with our spring drilling!
Today I started drilling our spring beans, and managed to get about 65acres completed - we've got just over 110acres to drill in total. The variety we're growing is Fuego which can be used for human consumption and is also an early maturing variety.
In terms of establishment we've certainly made the most of the 'free' cultivation method that is the weather this year... after ploughing the stubbles last November they've only required one pass with the spring tines yesterday before drilling them today. The reason for growing spring beans is that we failed to get the winter beans we had planned to grow drilled before the wet conditions last autumn.
There are a number of reasons for growing beans on the farm as part of the rotation - just in case you wondered;
· They are a different plant species to wheat, so create 'break' between wheat crops that helps to stop diseases that specifically effect wheat (or other cereals)
· Being a different plant species to wheat (broadleaf rather than grass/cereal) also means that it is easier to control grass weeds that cause problems within wheat crops through the use of selective herbicides - these are formulated to specifically effect grass species plants and not effect broadleaved plants (they can also be the opposite)
· They part of the legume family of plants (like peas) and are quite clever thanks to rhizobia bacteria found in root nodules they have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen - meaning that we don't have to apply any artificial nitrogen to the crop - a good think as artificial N is expensive, and we'd have to find time to apply it! Because of their nitrogen fixing ability they also leave the soil higher in nitrogen when they have been harvested, so benefit the following crop
· They have a different harvest date to OSR and Wheat, so it spreads our workload out - meaning we don't have to be harvesting every crop at the same time... the same also applies for planting.
The main reason we chose to grow spring beans rather than spring OSR is due to pigeons! They are a constant pest and would have required us to spend additional time scaring them away on a regular basis... There will (fingers crossed) be a couple of short video clips of the drill in action on YouTube soon (http://www.youtube.com/user/farmingmatters) if I can work out how to edit/change the file the videos are saved as! Hopefully tomorrow should see the drilling finished until it’s time to drill the maize and game covers at the end of April/early May.
I seem to have lost a few days or time in the evenings at least... but for no particular reason, maybe its stsying lighter for longer now? I think Spring is definitley getting here now, everything is starting to grow and there's a woodpecker constantly making a noise somewhere near the yard at home - so much so I'm expecting to find the tree cut in half soon.
The OSR is also starting to grow at last... resulting in pigeons now taking much more of an interest, does it taste better when its actively growing or is it just more visible to them now its getting bigger? - maybe their lazy birds and dont like having to walk a foot between plants to get a decent lunch!
Anyhow, whats been going on?
The answer I'm afraid is not much.. it was still too wet to allow any form of field work until early this week. So I spent most of Friday collecting soil samples - not the most exciting job on the farm, but an important one.. I managed to get 10 out of the 17 fields we want to sample done.. so over the next week or so I hope to be able to get the last few done; and a short bit about soil sampling here.
The end of last week, and the weekend finally saw some better drying conditions so yesterday we were able to continue putting the first application of fertiliser onto the second wheats (and a couple of fields of later drilled, struggling first wheats)
Hopefully over the next few days/week the weather will continue to dry the fields out abit so that we can get the wheat with blackgrass problems sprayed; having not been able too last autumn, and also get the game covers topped and ploughed up to allow them to get some free cultivation from the weather before they have to be drilled! We'll also be itching to get some ploughing springtined very soon and the Spring Beans drilled...
A few weeks ago I got talking via Twitter (follow me @redmanmatt) to Will Frazer from farmingfutures.org.uk, and it ended up with me being asked to write 400(ish) words for the Farming Futures blog about the '3 skills farmers will have in 10 years time, and what additional 3 skills will the top 10% have?'
So here it is...
... probably, but seeing as it's so wet and horrible at the moment I thought I'd put a few up.
Here's a few of my favourite ones..
Harvest 2009 - The second combine I ever drove... Claas Lexion 580+TT with 35ft header (the first being a 30ft 580TT!)
And finally, seeing as its currently the title image for the blog..
Let's hope it all dries up pretty soon now as its horrible weather to be attempting hedge laying, and my list of spraying and fertiliser recommendations is slowly getting longer - if that wasn't enough the Spring Bean seed arrived today; a nice reminder of all the ground work still to be done!
To avoid a case Chinese whispers if I relay some of the facts wrong, I’m not going to try and explain what exactly the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) is, instead I’m going to be slightly lazy and just give you the link to the website... www.cfeonline.org.uk and just say that it’s a voluntary initiative designed to help show that farmers can produce food and care for the environment (matching and improving the benefits set-a-side used to provide) at the same time, without the need for government legislation. It is backed by a number of industry bodies including the NFU, CLA, FWAG, Defra, RSPB, LEAF and Environment Agency to name a few.
However I will try and explain how important I think it is that farmers get involved with it.
Over the last few day’s I’ve been following the Fwi forum thread regarding the (CFE) and the warning from farms minister Jim Plaice (http://www.fwi.co.uk/Articles/2011/02/09/125422/Minister-to-farmers-Go-green-or-else.htm) that unless more is done by farmers - to ensure CFE is a success - then the government may consider a compulsory approach – something that has already been done in France, and is resulting in the French pushing for compulsory set-a-side across the EU. This would also not be like the old type of set-a-side, and would involve more environmental management and probably no chance to grow industrial crops such as OSR on it. This, it seems has not gone down well with some farmers, with the main arguments being that they already do alot of what the CFE is asking and why do we need more ‘red tape’ and forms to fill in? The other main argument is that half the world is starving, so why are we being ‘forced’ to take land out of production.It’s not all bad news, with alot of the negativity being focused on the need to carry out more form filling, most agree that a lot of farmers already have the voluntary measures required by CFE in place so actually the environment is still benefitting – CFE or not. However, this is also where the problem arises (and my disagreement) because there is a very important reason for taking part in the CFE and filling in the surveys and, believe it or not, that is too actually reduce the amount of ‘red tape’, form filling and ultimately government legislation that forces farmers by law to do more for the environment (probably in less convenient and flexible ways to what’s available currently as well).
Most of the ‘anti’ CFE comments are valid points, but unfortunately, it’s not reasonable or practical to expect the public or government to simply allow farmers to farm every hectare possible or to expect a sudden reduction in legislation, paperwork and ‘red tape’ – these may become a reality if there is a further significant increase in the demand for food worldwide, or continued increase in food prices that change the current views on the environment and food production. This maybe a fairly blunt view, but as I see it form filling and legislation compliance is here to stay, just like in other industries – farming is just higher profile and has lot more people who want to tell us how to do things – resulting in the industry having to be ‘extra compliant’ via more red tape etc.
Regrettably as an industry we’re going to have to get used to the paperwork and inspections, as even if the environmental legislations/policies change, there will probably still be assurance schemes and pesticide regulations or anything else that could affect the health and well being of the consumer.Overall, I think alot of the criticisms of the CFE are down to people not understanding how it works, and what the effects of it failing are, rather than actually not wanting to look after the environment. There are still those who think we should farm every Ha and that the environment will look after itself, but the past has shown this is not always the case – which is one of the main reasons we’re in the situation we are now. I haven’t got any better ideas on how to inform people about CFE’s importance and implications of it failing, but firing warning messages at people who are confused about what they’re being warned about doesn’t seem to have worked 100%...
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